NEW YORK - An original handwritten outline for Martin Luther King Jr.'s first speech condemning the Vietnam War owned by his friend Harry Belafonte is going on the auction block this week.
Sotheby's will offer the document for sale Thursday along with scribbled notes for a speech King planned to deliver in Memphis, Tenn., three days after he was assassinated, and a letter of condolence from President Lyndon B. Johnson to King's widow.
The auction house put the overall presale estimate for the three documents at $750,000 to $1.13 million, with the Vietnam speech valued at $500,000 to $800,000.
Belafonte, a singer and actor, was an early disciple of King.
In a telephone interview, Belafonte said he was putting his documents up for sale because "I am at the end of my life - I will be 82 shortly - and there are a lot of causes I believe in for which resources are not available, and there is a need to redistribute those resources."
Selby Kiffer, a senior manuscripts curator at Sotheby's, said the antiwar speech possibly ranks in importance with King's most famous papers: his "I Have a Dream" speech, "Letter from Birmingham Jail," and a draft of his Nobel Prize acceptance address.
Some 10,000 King documents that his family had planned to auction at Sotheby's in 2006 were bought for $32 million by the city of Atlanta and are housed at King's alma mater, Morehouse College.
King wrote the first draft of his Vietnam speech in ink on three sheets from a yellow legal pad and left it behind at Belafonte's apartment when he went to Los Angeles to deliver the finished remarks on Feb. 25, 1967, before a hotel crowd of Hollywood celebrities and four U.S. senators who also had denounced the war.